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Posts tagged ‘in-fighting’

The Erasure of Dicks

In about forty different ways.

Now for your daily dose of transactivist transphobia!

This time it’s “the majority of transphobic violence is committed against MTFs.”

It’s a general sentiment, but Julia Serano has actually written this in her book Whipping Girl (very closely paraphrased). And it is an unexplodey piece of shit.

This claim is bullshit because of two things: first, it’s unsubstantiated; and second, if you actually consider the actual way the world works, it’s very likely false. For simplicity’s sake (and honesty’s), I’m going to consider “violence” to be specifically physical violence, because even I know that having something shouted at you from a passing car is not nearly as traumatizing and intimidating as being physically attacked.

The first problem is self-explanatory; let’s focus on the second. Without any actual evidence, for example a survey that takes into account the relative time spent outside versus online, we don’t have any idea how often MTFs:FTMs are attacked—we don’t actually know how often either of them are attacked. Surveys are not very enlightening when it comes to the most vulnerable and abused, because they are the least likely to have the leisure and safety to fill one out.

And that’s part of the problem. From my observation, corroborated by the FTMs I’ve had the pleasure to meet, MTFs are by far the most prominent voices in the trans community. Put simply, FAAB men are not heard or counted as much or as loudly as their male-born counterparts.

This is not a trend isolated to the trans community. Reporting of eating disorders are similarly confused on a class and race basis: because of the way eating disorders are reported, they are incorrectly assumed to be largely specific to upper-middle class young white women. Here are the problems with assuming eating disorder reporting is correct:

1. Reports are gathered from medical and psychiatric authorities. Consider monetary and time expenditure, as well as cultural values and expectations (stigmatization, bootstraps fuckery, et cetera).

2. Eating disorders are often well-hidden until an extreme point; for example, Lierre Keith has gone more than twenty-nine years with an eating disorder without anyone recognizing what it was.

3. Those who are typically victimized by “authorities” are more likely to be suspicious of medical and psychiatric authorities, for good reason, and thus more likely to hide their eating disorders, if they go to aforementioned establishments at all.

4. The majority of eating disorders are not recognized and acknowledged; severe emaciation and/or constant self-induced vomiting is required for it to be seen as a “real” eating disorder.

5. Whether or not someone’s eating disorder qualifies as a “real” eating disorder is also highly dependent on sex, size, age, race/ethnicity and class.

That’s a lot of societal crap standing in the way of that nice, neat conclusion. Fact is, street kids—generally the poorest of the poor and marginalized so much that the word doesn’t even work to describe it—have eating disorders. All the time. All of the street kids I’ve met have eating disorders; the vast majority of the street kids Aslan has met (dude, Denver Five Points Area) also have eating disorders; almost none of them were white. I’ve got way more than enough evidence that the “profile” of people with eating disorders is worth less than the bananas I ate yesterday.

And even then, street kids have one more thing working against them—something that FAAB men do, too: they’re usually starving anyway, so any intentional starvation on their part is obscured and rendered as invisible as the lives of street kids generally are.

Same with FTMs, which the people crowing about how MTFs are the primary target of trans-related violence always miss: when violence is perpetrated against FTMs, how much of it is just violence against women? How much violence against FAAB men is identified as “merely” another woman killed, raped, beaten?

Certainly, that’s what their attackers mean it to be; it’s virtually certain that an FTM’s attacker is going to be MAAB, and even more certain that he is going to be viewing the violence as not against someone who is trans as it is a woman. Generally, MTFs get beaten, raped and killed for being “freaks” and “fags”; FTMs get beaten, raped and killed because they’re girls. The reality of violence is different for MTFs and FTMs, and it is exceedingly male-centric to deny these two things: first, that MTFs are more visible because of their at-birth assignment (that is to say, as male); second, that MTFs are not the standard by which transphobic violence can be measured.

We can see that to deny these things is patriarchal, also, because of the history of homophobic violence and the focus of the recent gay rights movements. When gay men are beaten or killed, it is horrific, although not so much for rape (since sexual violence is still a big no-no in the hot-to-trot social justice scene); when lesbians are beaten, killed and raped, it’s more of the same. The rape of lesbian women is so institutionalized, in fact, that we have a fucking name for it: “corrective rape.” And you can bet how widely-used that is—I found it via surfing a bunch of feminist blogs.

What about the New Jersey Four? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were lesbians? What about the lesbians who have been subjected to male violence because they were women? What’s the fucking difference between those two things? The life of women—people who are put into boxes labeled “women,” a fucking social reality—that landscape is covered with so much blood and violence that it becomes virtually meaningless. Violence against women is normal; as it is said, “the water we swim in and the air we breathe.” When an MTF actually goes beyond a refusal to see and avoid dealing with the privilege and behaviors she was socialized into from birth, when she reaches the point of being just a woman, when that woman experiences rape, battery, abuse, murder at the hands of men, she isn’t experiencing it because she’s trans. She’s experiencing it because she’s a woman. That’s what life means; that’s what the social reality of “woman” is.

And it is important too to ask the questions: Who is doing the beating? Who is doing the raping? Who is doing the abusing? Who is doing the murdering?

If transactivists are genuinely interested in stopping trans-related violence, then the answer to that question cannot be fudged. You can’t argue these words are beating, raping and murdering you. I am doing no such thing and, furthermore, no person who ever reads these words and agrees will be doing any of those things to you, either. Get over yourself. You either care about trans-related violence or you don’t. And if you want to stick the responsibility of violence to people who are not perpetrating actual violence against transfolk, then you don’t care about ending that violence at all.

FTMs are not given this extra-special kind of respect by the holders of power (that is to say, MAAB men as a social reality) because they want to be one of the guys or whatever. They’re still seen as women. When they get attacked, they get attacked because they’re seen as women. And their safety is exponentially more at risk, because they are traveling into the domain of those who are most likely to beat, rape and kill them. Invisibility is paramount. Invisibility is passing, and passing is safety.

But when you’re an MTF, and you’re exploiting that invisibility to argue that you’re the most specialest and oppressed, you’re just acting like everyone born with a dick is trained to act. Which is, well… a dick.

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Privilege isn’t Winning, it’s Not Participating

A huge problem I have with the concept of “cisgender privilege” is that my female-bodied friends, and female-bodied people in general, are somehow assumed to have more privilege from being recognizable as feminine, instead of more targeted for victimization. Er, no. Femininity doesn’t work like that: there is no place of acceptance or safety, just different kinds of violence and objectification.

What I’ve seen is that when women achieve or fall into contemporary beauty (i.e. femininity) norms, they are not given a magic shield from gendered violence, whether sexual, emotional or physical. But they are given more attention of the kind patriarchy wants us to believe is positive—a guy not-so-covertly stalking you throughout the entire grocery store, spooking you so much that you keep your keys between your fingers and look over your shoulder walking through the parking lot; some douche who comes up and tells you that you’re pretty, with the obvious expectation that you’ll immediately swoon and accompany him to bed; getting “HAY BAYBEE” or sundry other things shouted at you from a passing man (in a car, on foot) instead of “FATASS” or “FREAK.” Stop acting like these things are not just as invalidating, minimizing, and fucking terrifying as the things women go through when they’re not feminine enough. They are.

Newsflash from Feminism 101: Women do not win. Ever.

But dividing women has one very salient advantage—it keeps them occupied arguing over who’s the prettiest, ugliest, bitchiest or most privileged, short-circuiting any destruction the silly little dears might have otherwise been able to wreak on the existing power structure.

Come on. This has been happening for centuries. Women fight over who’s more beautiful and the winner is men. Women fight over a husband and the winner is the man. One of the sad truths of women’s interactions throughout history is that women are always more likely to blame and fight each other than men. Patriarchy—all power structures—create a competition amongst the underclass to divert their attention and energies to getting small slivers of oppressor-given approval and power, because the easiest way to quell rebellion is to make sure it never begins. By making women compete, patriarchy succeeded in making men and men’s power invisible: in the din and dust of scrabbling to get whatever scrap of male approval was there, women forgot who was standing above them, laughing, and blamed the women around them for being better at the competition, or worse.

Part of the solidarity of the feminist movement was realizing that the women who won were still being forced to compete.

When I look at the belief that women—because it is always women—are privileged because they have an advantage in the competition, I see that history and that community disappeared. When I see the dismissal of this competition as important, as a fundamental shaping factor of all women’s lives—because all women have to deal with this in any civilization—what appears to me is not a fight for the rights of those maligned, but an incredible push to make people forget that the competition ever existed at all.

That’s the voice of postmodernism, individualism, transactional oppression. It’s the voice of the pornographers and the pimps, the doctors and the butchers and the rapists: women have power over the competition because they choose to compete.

This is the voice of reality: women have no choice to compete, because they are not the ones setting up the arenas. Men are, and the prize is sexual, emotional and capitalistic victimization. The only beneficiaries of the Colosseum were the spectators.

The privilege and power that transactivists seek does not lie in being able to participate in the competition, much less in winning at it. Those things reside only in not competing, and women cannot give you this—they’ve been trying for thousands of years to find a way out of the competition, themselves. You cannot give power you aren’t allowed to have in the first place, and women cannot oppress you as women, if trying to found a safe place for themselves and those like them—who were given no power and no choice—even counts as oppression. Demanding that women give you the power to be like them is only begging from an empty hand, because women have never had the power to decide what women were in the first place. And I find it unsurprising that when women finally do try to decide what women are—people designated unwilling competitors from birth in a system they cannot benefit from, because they have ovaries—the reaction is this vicious.

As women, they have no power to give you and even less to take yours from you. As women, they aren’t even allowed to decide who does not get to be around them, because that would be making boundaries, and those without power cannot have boundaries. As people born and recognized as men most of your lives, you still believe that women should not be allowed to have boundaries that are respected, defended. I know you believe this because your actions are written by patriarchy, and they are the same as any other man in the world, speaking slowly and menacingly: you have no right to keep yourself from me.

The only reason that oppressiveness is scented when a woman says, “I feel unsafe, and I don’t want you around me,” is that men have always had every right to women’s space, women’s bodies and women’s time. So when someone who was raised as a man is told no, it is perceived as a limiting of their rights, their privilege. Women are oppressing men by taking away their rights, the rights that were originally taken from women. But that is also invisible, especially to men.

As a genderqueer, I am absolutely skeptical of the idea that such a thing as “cisgender privilege” exists. Seeing it in the light of male privilege and the reality of women’s lives, instead of abstracted to fit the needs of those who have been privileged all their lives, it is just more of the same thing from the same place.

Remember: pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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